As the defending champion Windies open their campaign against host New Zealand on January 13 in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2018, the message from players of the victorious side was clear: “Enjoy the game, we are proud of you all.”
The West Indies clinched its maiden title in 2016 with a five-wicket victory over India in the final at the Sher-e- Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka.
Jason Holder, the current Test and One-Day International captain of the Windies team who was part of the U19 squad at the 2010 event, felt that it had been an important phase in his cricket career as it helped him gain considerable experience of playing in foreign conditions against other players of his age.
“It was a stepping stone to my career, it virtually prepared me to play my first-class games back home and then for the West Indies,” Holder said.
Holder was delighted by the title triumph in Bangladesh. “It was finally good to see the West Indian boys lift the title last time,” he remarked.
“Many of the teams had gone relatively close to lifting the trophy, but these last group of boys have done us proud and I am really proud of their efforts.”
Holder also hoped that the squad taking part in the next edition would continue to bring laurels. “The U-19 team set the tone by winning the youth World Cup, and the women’s and the men’s teams followed it up by winning the ICC World T20 in 2016. It was phenomenal. There was jubilation and relief back home. I hope they continue in the same vein and win a lot more trophies in the future.”
Shimron Hetmyer and Alzarri Joseph, now playing for the senior squad, were among key players that shaped Windies’ run to the title last time around.
For Hetmyer, the top-order batsman who played for a small club in Guyana, featuring in the U19 CWC was an unforgettable experience. “It was a good feeling for me, I was one of three people coming from my club back in Guyana. Now to be training and playing with the national side, it’s a dream come true.”
Joseph, the right-arm pacer who was his team’s highest wicket-taker with 13 wickets from six matches, added that all the hard work put in for the junior side was paying off now.
“It’s something you can’t really put words to… putting all the hard work in the practice pitches to be in the moment, to play a World Cup for the West Indies and win the World Cup.”
For the squad taking the field next year, Joseph’s message was to go out, express themselves and have fun. “Put your best foot forward and come back victorious.”